Monday, 23 April 2012

Sin or no Sin

I had planned on having this post ready to go up on Thursday last week but unfortunately managed to strain my subscapularis muscle (big one under the armpit) last weekend meaning my arm has been really sore and painful since. It is slightly better now and I even managed to do 20min of sewing on my Colette Violet muslin. And speaking of that did you notice anything sinful and shocking about the photo?
I know the topic of tracing vs cutting sewing patterns has been exausthead on the internet but I needed to put my thoughts down and document the moment I stopped tracing and started cutting.
Actually it happened a few months ago, but then I decided to only cut patterns from the big companies, like Vogues and McCalls. I would continue to trace Colette Patterns, as they are ultra cute and precious and they have to be preserved... then the above happened! I've cut a Colette Pattern!
All tracers out there might empathise with that moment when you're raring to start a new project and pull the pattern out to trace and decide to do something else/ leave it for later, etc. I'm in there right now, I do not want to spend time tracing. Whilst there is some level of impatience going on here, I feel this does not have an impact on the fitting and sewing of the garment. I still plan on doing a muslin to check fit and take my time ensuring the project is beautifully sewn.

So I'm being very pragmatic about this!

I would trace a pattern to:

  • Preserve the original in case I change size (if I change size I probably would change style)
  • Preserve the original to sell or donate to someone else (not really a priority)
  • Preserve the original to make for someone else (not in my plans)
  • Preserve it to make millions in many years time when it's a vintage rarity (Ah! Someone else would make the millions as I will probably be dead).

However, tracing a pattern does not:

  • Make me more productive in my sewing
  • Ensure I achieve a perfect fit
  • Ensure the fabric selection is appropriate
  • Ensure it is beautifully sewn and finished.
There we go, so why do it? Makes perfect sense to me, but why do I still feel a bit guilty?


  1. I know how you feel!!

    I bought three Colette patterns and spent hours tracing them all out over 3 nights after work.
    How far did that get me in making these dressed? I'm still at the starting line
    Will I cut Colette patterns in the future? No! They cost me €14 and I am so heavy handed and clumsy, ive ripped many a pattern piece. Tracing helps me preserve a bit longer! But I can see why you have cut. You've just hop skipped and jumped into pattern design. If you want to kick back and sew straight away... Then go for it Suzy!! Xx

  2. I know how you feel too. I hate pattern tracing, but I'm always so paranoid that I'll cut the wrong size. This is why I loved downloading the pdf of the new Colette patterns - I could cut with a clear conscience!

  3. Haha, I love this post and it's something I've struggled with for ages. I just want to get stuck into my new projects, not waste precious time tracing pattern pieces! So I've found a middle ground, which I'm sure would also upset the purists! I basically snip horizontal lines all around the curved edges of pattern pieces to the size I'm making and then fold back. For straight edges there's no need to snip, so I just fold! That way I still have all my size options intact, it's just a matter of re-folding to my required size ;o)

    1. This is a very good idea Marie, I like it. Might copy it ;)

  4. Life. Is. Too. Short. Cut em up! What's the worst that's gonna happen?

  5. I always have cut my patterns up, they will never look like the original due to my many alterations, but I try to keep the design lines intact. I only recently started to trace because my body have been changing (for worse) and I hope to be able to return to my better shape once my back problem improve. So I need to keep the pattern intact so i can re do the modifications in the future. Only because of it, I'm tracing it.
    I sill dont trace everything , just the patterns I know I want to make in the future.

  6. I cut them up! Sometimes if I'm uncertain about an adjustment I will THEN trace the individual piece and play around with the tracing, but I tend to think that, despite the price, or the cuteness, the pattern is a tool and is designed to be used.

    1. Hear, hear!! Very true! Patterns are to be used. After all we are sewists not collectors. Thank you.

  7. I hope it makes you feel a little better to tell you that I never trace a pattern. I am just too lazy to do so. When I make something from a pattern for myself I just cut and go.
    I understand the reasons for tracing vintage patterns but to be honest, I don't trace them either. They are mostly one size anyways instead of today's multi size patterns. I am sure a lot of people cringe when they hear that but there you go. I confess to being an awfully selfish pattern tissue cutter.
    I can't wait to see your next project, cut or traced.

  8. Good points! My ginger pattern got ruined the first time I used it by ironing out the wrinkles, it ripped and when I taped it back together, it didn't line up. I could have cried. So I did make a copy after the fact. Most times I don't make copies of the pattern, but I always make a muslin. The only time I make a copy is if I love the pattern so much and will be making it again and again. Feel better soon!

    1. Yes, I experienced something similar with the same brand of patterns. From one to the other the tissue changed dramatically and it was much more flimsy.

  9. Tracing is definitely a pain in the butt. It wastes so much time but I still do it. I fluctuate weight so much (I'm talking sizes) that I can't afford to cut away just in case I might need another size in the future.

    But I have cut patterns I am not too attached to (Hello, 80s Burda pattern).

    Reinforce those pattern pieces with some interfacing. That'll make them last longer and ease the guilt a bit.

  10. I don't trace. For me, it's just one more barrier to getting started, and I don't need that! I have traced my Colette patterns before, mostly because I was worried about the price/sizing, but now I think I would just cut them.

  11. I don't think you should feel guilty - honestly, I think it's silly when people trace current patterns (unless they have a real concrete reason why they need to retain the sizes; like serious weight fluctuation or using the pattern for lots of people/sizes). I have never ever ever traced a current pattern, and I don't plan on it. Haha!

    I can get behind tracing vintage patterns - preservation & all - but I don't even trace those unless I plan on hacking them up in some fashion. And even then, if the pattern has already been hacked before I got my hands on it, then all bets are off. If this makes me a bad sewer, then I don't wanna be goooood!

    1. I'm with you. I also don't cut original vintage patterns...yet, lolol.

  12. Gosh, isn't there enough to feel guilty about in life, without adding cutting up sewing patterns!

    I have never traced a pattern in my life. Too lazy.

    Keep calm and carry on!

  13. I trace only if the pattern was expensive AND I'm going to be altering the tissue significantly (i.e. FBA). But even then, I'm only tracing the front bodice pieces. I figure, tracing is like insurance. But the rule about insurance is that you shouldn't over-insure something you can afford to cover yourself. Frankly, even IF I destroy a Colette/Sewaholic pattern, it's worth the one-time $16-$20 to save all that annoying tracing time every time I make a project - and I can afford to risk it. Plus, then I'm just sending more money in the direction of awesome small business owners.

    The only time I could really see myself tracing a whole pattern would be for a vintage pattern that I adored and wasn't easily replaceable. But, honestly, there's so many gorgeous patterns out there that I could kind of see myself just cutting those as well. Life's too short. (And I'm slow enough at this as it is without adding unnecessary steps!)

    1. I often thought about that as well. If I really, really like a pattern and want to use it again...I can buy another one, simple.

  14. Oh I started out good - tracing my precious 40's patterns....

    But now - MEH! I just want to sew! I barely even make muslins! I'm a bad bad seamstress ;-P

    I figure, I'll get round to tracing them eventually when they get a bit tattered. But I've found even those 70 year old 40's patterns are sturdier than the paper modern ones come on (from the Big 4)....

    Sue me! ;-PPPP

  15. Of course you should do what makes you happy, and your results are always to die for! However, the comments seem to very one-sided here...
    Honestly, I'm so very happy that my mom did't think like that - her being a size smaller than me and with totally different fit issues. She has a huge stash of patterns, wouldn't it be sad if they had all been altered to her 30 years ago and would fit no-one in the family? What about the patterns where pieces overlap? Getting in the habit of not tracing closes a world of future makes (lazyness is a hard habit to break) ;)

    Today I make my own patterns, every make of a new model begins with tracing a sloper or a TNT older model (usually made by me as well) and then a toille. I've dabbled in calligraphy and the Chineese have a saying: if you don't have time to tear up the ink (100 strokes minimum) then you don't have time to do calligraphy. If I don't have time to trace and make a muslin, then I don't have time to sew.

    When talking vintage patterns: if I don't really have to sew, why do I need to ruin a 60-70 year old pattern that can give someone else much joy? Why presume to be the last stop for a beautiful pattern? Why destroy it to make sure I am the last station? Alright if the pattern can be used without any changes, or it's a new print that can be bought again, but I shudder whenever anyone writes about cutting up or pinning a vintage pattern.

    The more complicated the piece, the more time tracing. My coat took hours to trace! But a blouse that takes 15 hours to sew takes me 15 min to trace. I utterly fail to see the problem. If it takes too long to trace, maybe that means it's something one needs to practise at...
    But then I'm a history nerd brought up in a house where tracing patterns was a given fact of life =)

    Just a point of view from the other side of the coin... ;-)

    1. Thank you for giving a different view on the issue, it's good to hear points from both ends. I used to be a real preservationist in everything. For example, not reading a book because I didn't want to damage the spine. I think as time went by I found myself with more things I want to/ have to do and less time to do them so I just want to enjoy things. Of course there is laziness involved but if I'm a sewist and not a collector, preserving with extra work won't be a priority. A bit selfish perhaps.

      Saying that I don't cut vintage patterns directly. I always trace these and keep originals in plastic pocket.

  16. I am glad you just went for it. I think it's nice to preserve, but more in a try-to-fold-patterns-neatly-when-storing way and not in a must-preserve-original-folds way. I say cut away! Plus, now that you have the tools and knowledge to draft your own patterns, you're likely to move away from depending on patterns anyway.

  17. Yep, I'm afraid that I am a cutter too, except where I am not sure of my size & then I do a bit of what Marie does - a little folding - & then try to remember to note what size I need for the next time I use it.
    When I do trace it is usually because I have to, so that I can make different sizes for other people (& I hate it! Especially when you have to tape pieces of tracing paper together! Sewing them made it a bit less painful).....



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